Bitter Cherry Fruits

By August, red drupes have formed from the white bitter cherry (Prunus emarginata) flowers discussed in my previous post  (see “Bitter Cherry” on 03-17-19).

Bitter cherry fruits are very bitter and astringent. I can attest to how unpalatable these pretty little fruits are. I knew they were bitter but could not resist carefully tasting just one to see how bitter they were. Mistake!! A half hour later my mouth remained puckered.

Although humans find bitter cherry fruits too astringent, they are a food source for rodents and other small animals, as well as birds. Deer, elk and bear also use bitter cherry as a forage species.

The translucent, bright red drupes resemble other stone fruits, such as plums. Drupes have a fleshy pulp covering a “stone” containing the seed. Bitter cherry stones are pointed. The flesh turns black with age.

These bitter cherry plants are growing along Forest Road 10 near the southwest entrance to the Lava Beds National Monument in August (Siskiyou County CA).

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